Last week I wrote: “I think I get more out of 5 minutes on Twitter than an hour in a staff meeting.” It is sad but true, and the responses that I received from others in my PLN indicated that I am not alone. It is an unfortunate truth for many connected educators: as we are becoming more connected, more informed, and more effective, many institutions remain rigidly resistant to change, and a result old and inefficient practices are repeated over and over again.
The inspiration for this tweet came in the form of our monthly staff meeting, an hour+ long affair involving:
1. Discussion of issues which did not concern most of the staffers present2. Review of items and information which can easily be found in materials online and on Dropbox3. Check-ins, in which few spoke their mind and most unanimously declared that they were “fine” and things were going “well”
Needless to say, the meeting was pretty much a waste of time for most of the people who attended, and I left that day asking myself why, in a world of such easy access to new information, new practices, and new ways of sharing, do some people, groups, and institutions continue to merely “go through the motions,” even when doing so is so clearly ineffective?
I guess the easy answer is that change is hard, change is uncomfortable, and for those reasons it is largely avoided. However I have to look at my own life and experience and ask myself when doing the same old thing ever got me positive results (answer: it didn’t). There is a saying that the “definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Which leaves me wondering why a boring staff meeting would produce anything other than still-bored staffers.
Since I am a firm believer in the idea that if you focus on the problem, the problem enlarges, but if you focus on the solution, the solution enlarges, I am collecting ideas from my brain, my PLN, and the wealth of information out there in the universe, as to how we can make professional development effective, useful, and practical at the local level. That is to say, not only a collection of ideas which sound great out in the Twitterverse, but those which can be applied here and now, despite an institutional setting which limits the ease of change and applicability of new ideas. (Feel free to chime in in the comment section and let me know what I am missing, I’m sure there is a lot!)
1. Ask for input (Ask staffers and teachers what they want and need in terms of professional development, and take steps to offer it! Then continue to ask and follow-up to determine effectiveness).
2. Keep participants engaged (In the same way we focus on student engagement, administration should be concerned with offering professional development which keeps teachers and staff engaged. If the content is useful, they are more likely to be engaged).
3. Change things up a little (This could be anything from the location, format, or agenda of a staff meeting to including different forms of media and sharing).
4. OK, Change things up a lot (Out with the old, in with the new. Reevaluate what needs to be shared and why, and include new content and material instead of irrelevant and repetitive information).
5. Make use of resources (There is so much out there, we are truly doing ourselves and our staff a disservice conducting meetings with printouts that follow a traditional and repetitive format. Bring technology into the discussion to arm teachers and staff with tools which will truly advance them in their field).
This is just the beginning of what I’m sure is a massive list of things which should be done to maximize professional development opportunities. The tip of the iceberg, if you will. What are some ways in which you believe professional development should be advanced and applied in your schools?